Some interesting reading about carbon neutral european cities.
The monthly Physics World, published by the British Institute of Physics, provides us in its April issue with a paper titled Life in a carbon-neutral world. Thanks to the editor, everybody can read it for free.
This paper is very interesting. Although it is a feature paper, and it wasn’t the author’s purpose to go deep into scientific details, she gives enough clues for a science educated reader to see basic sciences almost everywhere.
We would like to give just some examples here.
A way to earn some time toward a zero emission world, she writes, is to capture and sequestrate carbon. She discuss to ways of doing this:
- using underground reservoirs, especially the emptied oil and gas ones;
- using ecosystems, as discussed also elsewhere.
The first, very technical, way, needs a lot of chemistry, physics and geology, to be sure that we can capture efficiently CO2 in the atmosphere, and that storages will be safe, without leaks. The ecosystem way needs a lot of basic biology knowledge also. And don’t forget the maths for all the modeling.
One third of greenhouse-gas emissions in a european city comes from heating and powering houses. The author discusses, with well chosen examples, how we can reduce these:
- isolation of existing houses (obviously a lot of material science here);
- self energy production, for instance with solar panels on wall and on roofs (material science, again, with physics, chemistry, and even some biology);
- reuse of existing buildings, or at least of building materials (should we repeat?).
Improved transportations and circulations
Another third of greenhouse-gas emissions comes from transportations. The author discusses solutions that are more about city planning than about clean fuels (whose developments are too obviously related to all our favourite basic sciences).
What is really interesting however is that she quotes the work of “Marc Barthelemy, an expert on spatial networks at the CEA Institute for Theoretical Physics in Saclay, France.” And if you have a look at his personal webpage you learn that this specialist of city networks works in a very theoretical physics department, as was his primary scientific education. Basic science again!
Less carbon in food
When the author comes to food, which production is also responsible for 10% of worldwide greenhouse-gas emissions, she envision that the best action would be a change of diet, toward veganism, vegetarianism, or at least a huge reduction of meat and dairy consumption. If we do this, not only will we need less carbon intensive food, but also agriculture will need less land (less land for cattle, and less land for growing cattle food). Here is an example of virtuous synergy: in UK, it will enable more tree planting (for carbon storage) and the restoration of peatlands that otherwise could release much carbon in the atmosphere.
Social sciences are in
A last remark before you all leave to read the paper: social sciences are also requested for all these solutions to work. The author gives examples of how mayors and other city authorities managed to change things, and to convince a majority of citizens to follow new rules. Most of the time, it works because collective process of decisions have been used. And who knows best about this than anthropologists and sociologists?
SDGs are a team work and we need all basic sciences to succeed.